Complaints at media coverage of 13-year-old father


Following on from my last post, an interesting article in the Indy today  - child protection officers at East Sussex County Council have written to the Press Complaints Commission to complain about press harassment of 13-year-old father (or possible father, according to reports) Alfie Patten and his girlfriend, definite mother Chantelle Steadman. This follows on from Cornwall's assistant director of children's services writing to Channel 4 to demand the channel axes Boys and Girls Alone, the "Lord of the Flies" reality TV show where a whole load of children are dumped in a village in Cornwall by themselves, saying it is abusive.

The programme is not live, so you could argue preventing the programme going out makes no difference - the "abuse" has already happened. But Cornwall's argument is that broadcasting the programme is in itself abusive as it opens up the children to comment and potential ridicule both locally among their peers, nationally via the press and worldwide, over the internet.

I reckon this is the tip of the iceberg, and local safeguarding children boards and other child protection services are going to have to get involved with the media a lot more in the future. If they don't already have a media strategy (not how they promote themselves to the media, but how they react when children from their area are involved in media coverage) they need to get one quick.

The newspapers which apparently paid the Patten family for their story will say covering such things is in the public interest. But, as we all learn in journalism school, "public interest" is very different from "something the public will be interested in", and while the latter is very probably true, the former, I would argue, is not.